A cook for my Aai

Being a parent is hard. Not that I really know how that is, considering I am not one. But sometimes you just know. The bond that a child shares with his/her parent/s is probably the purest. I know it differs for each one of us. But to me – and I am thankful – it is the best love I have ever experienced. I have always had this deep gratitude for it – even when I was a teenager.

When I moved to away from home to a city a few hours away, Aai (my mother) was my biggest support and still is. In the past year, I have made my own life, one that is sometimes detached from the life I had when I was home in Pune. That change sometimes is overwhelming but it feels good – like most change does.

Every morning when I am on my way to work and at night when I am about to sleep, I call or FaceTime with my mother. Our conversations range from a few minutes to several. Most of it depends on my mood, not hers. She is always happy and perky speaking with me, like I am the most important  human being in the world.

When it is a weekend or when ‘I am having too much fun with friends’, I can almost feel this doubt in her voice that wants to ask me if I really miss her. The answer is YES. But I’m not sure if I can be as convincing as I’d like to be.

So, this weekend, I thought, instead of telling her how much I miss her, I’d cook for her. This can’t be just another cook, I thought. It has to have elements of the life I have away from home. Also, it should be food she likes.

I had it planned. Every day when I ate from my colleagues’ lunch boxes, I made mental notes, asked how I could make that food.  My mom probably knows how to make it, but this would be special – and it was.

I cooked her a basic vegetarian, healthy and almost vegan (ha ha) meal – sooji-soya cheela and Mallu chutney, recipes borrowed from from the mothers of my friends Melanie and Isha.

My mother loved it! She even let me use her kitchen, no questions asked. It was one of the best evenings I have had in a long time. She even ate cheese, which she never does. That says a lot.

Here’s what I made.

Sooji and soya ka cheela

  • 1 cup – Sooji/Rawa/Semolina
  • 1 cup – Yoghurt (if you are vegan, skip the yoghurt increase the quantity of water)
  • 1 cup – Soya flour
  • 1/2 cup – water
  • Chopped vegetables (coriander, onion, tomato, capsicum (optional))
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Curry leaves
  • Cheese (grated)
  1. Mix rawa, soya flour, yogurt curd and water. Keep aside for at least 1 hour for fermentation. Add all the vegetables and coriander (if you want)FullSizeRender.jpg
  2. Add salt.
  3. Heat a non-stick tawa, add oil/butter/ghee (obviously butter or ghee)
  4. Spread batter over the tawa (like a dosa).
  5. On the cheela, add pepper, curry leaves and sesame seeds while it is wet.
  6. Once cooked properly, turn over and let it get crisp.
  7. Serve with the chutney (recipe below).



  • 2 Onions
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 5  Garlic cloves
  • Coriander leaves stems (my mother thinks they are nutritious)
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin powder
  • Salt
  1. Take a pan/tawa and roasted all the ingredients till they sweat
  2. Once the are dehydrated and the onions are caramelised, leave them to cool
  3. When cool, add them in to a blender
  4. Add salt, coriander power and cumin power
  5. Serve



12 thoughts on “A cook for my Aai

  1. Beautiful. Very few food writers realise that it’s not about the food, but the emotions associated with it. This is spot on.

  2. Now that would’ve been one Happy Gudi Padwa for your mom !! As always, so well written..its an art you have Purva and it so well reflects each emotion you want to express..happy cooking and blogging !!

  3. You live to Eat, for sure. I love reading your stories around food. Ever considered making short documentaries of these?

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